India and Australia are about to get closer in more than just sport

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Australian sport bounds into India’s rocketing retail market. It is often said that Australian-Indian relations are based on the “three Cs” – cricket, curry and Commonwealth.

Indeed, on my visits to India I can barely get through the airport as I am regularly accosted by walking, talking Indian cricket encyclopaedias among the airline staff, who want to engage me in all aspects of the game – whether it be Test, one day, or even domestic cricket (they say things like: “You are from South Australia? Yes, I know Ian Chappell, Rodney Hogg, Darren Lehman, Jason Gillespie, all very good players sir….”).

But a recent development has actually expanded Australian-Indian sports connections beyond the great game of cricket.

In the game of basketball, Australia’s greatest boomer (and Olympic flag bearer) Andrew Gaze has just announced a strategic partnership between his company, Australian Basketball Resources (ABR), and the new Indian sports company Jus Sportz, which will see Australian basketball brands – mainly sportswear, footwear and memorabilia – sold throughout India.

Jus Sportz will launch four stores in southern India by March 2007 and plans to expand to a total 20 stores across the sub-continent within five years.

According to Jus Sportz’s director, C Sivakumar, India’s growing love of sports and all things Australian makes it a very natural fit for his company.

“Most of our favourite sports icons are Australian and Australian brands enjoy a strong reputation in India,” he says. “With phenomenal growth in sporting retail sales in India, it makes sense for us to take the best of Australian sporting brands directly to the customer.”

In fact, Andrew Gaze himself sees his role as pioneer in terms of giving Australian sports brands a “beach-head” into the growing Indian sports retail market. “The new deal will create opportunities for more Australian companies to expand their operations into one the of the world’s fastest growing developing country economies with a relatively low risk and great exposure,” Gaze says.

Gaze is not alone as an Australian sports exporter in India. In fact, when I travelled to India on a recent trade delegation, I noticed a number of Australian sports exporters on my direct Qantas flight from Sydney to Mumbai, including Albion – a manufacturer of cricket helmets and the baggy green cap.

According Albion’s general manager Ross Barrat: “We see India as a major source of expansion for our product. We were founded in 1947 – the same year as India’s independence – and see our future wrapped up with India’s just as we have a shared history,” he explained.

Barrat says Albion’s ability to innovate has been a key part of its success as a company and as Australian exporter. “I feel the invention of the Albion cricket helmet during World Series Cricket in the 1970s, is similar to the invention of the Hills Hoist, the Black Box flight recorder, the Cochlear ear implant or the baby seat capsule for cars; an example of Australians being innovative and looking to make the world better but also safer,” he says.

According to Mike Moignard, Australia’s senior trade commissioner in New Delhi, there should be many more opportunities to put Australian sporting brands in the hands and on the feet, backs and heads of India’s consumers. He estimates the Indian retail sports market “to be worth close to $310 million”.

Why India? One reason is the growing middle class of some 300 million people and a growing purchasing power of an estimated $A85 billion.

Furthermore, the economic reforms started by the Finance Minister (now Prime Minister) Dr Manmohan Singh in 1991 has really opened up the Indian retail market to western tastes in food, fashion and entertainment while strengthening and expanding India’s strong culture to the rest of the world (look at Bollywood’s influence).

This means that western retail brands – including Australian companies like Gloria Jeans and Cookie Man – are doing well in Indian retail markets through franchising arrangements.

Australian-India trade ties are certainly growing. Over the past five years, Australian exports have grown faster to India than in any other of our top 30 markets. However, there’s still plenty to do in terms of expanding and diversifying our export base as only around 1500 Australian companies export to India (which is half the number that go to China and about the same number that export to the United Arab Emirates).

Sport is one way to get into the burgeoning Indian retail market, whether it be basketball, cricket, hockey or football. Of course, there will be great opportunities ahead with the Commonwealth Games being held in New Delhi in 2010. And with so much Indian business interest at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 – with one in five business visitors being from India, according to Business Club Australia – let’s hope there’s similar Australian interest in India when New Delhi gets its turn.

Doing business in India

Key facts:

  • Australian goods exports to India: $7387 million (key sectors: non-monetary gold, coal, copper, wool), 2005-06.
  • Australian services exports to India: $1415 million (key sectors: education, tourism).
  • Australian-India two-way trade: $8627 million, 2005-06
  • Key growth sectors: non-monetary gold, coal, education, tourism, franchises in consumer/lifestyle products.
  • Number of Australian businesses exporting goods to India: 1463.

Source: DFAT, ABS, Austrade.

Tips for new exporters:

  • First of all, do your homework.

The sub-continent is a rich and enthralling place but it is not a monolith. For example, the Delhi market is very different from say, Chennai in the south, or Mumbai in the west.

So target your market carefully, looking at consumer trends and tastes by regional and the strength of the competition from locals or other international players.

  • Second, take advantage of the local knowledge provided by Austrade.

Mike Moignard and his team in India have a network that covers Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata as well as Pune and Chandigarh.

Austrade can also help you deal with India’s regulations. Remember that India has a federal system with many government agencies to deal with at federal, state and regional level.

  • Third, once you have done your research, and have some contacts lined up via Austrade India, you have to take your own “passage to India” as the sub-continent’s economic miracle is worth seeing for yourself.
  • And finally, if you like cricket, do try and catch a local match, especially a Test or one day international.

I have been to cricket matches all over the world and India is the penultimate in cricket tragicology (perhaps along with the Caribbean).

And if you are lucky enough to be there when Australia is playing India, make sure you travel through India with a dignitary who doesn’t like cricket. That way you might snap up some spare tickets. Or if he or she does, make sure they look after you.

Tim Harcourt is the chief economist of Austrade and the author of BEYOND OUR SHORES.


Key contact in India:
Mike Moignard, Senior Trade Commissioner, Australian Trade Commission. 1/50 G, Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110 021. INDIA. Email: [email protected]

Within Australia: 13 28 78, www.austrade.gov.au, email: [email protected]



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